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Passenger rights vary depending on the country you are flying within or from.  The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently announced some new passenger regulations:

·      If you are involuntarily bumped from a domestic flight, you are entitled to cash compensation if your airline rebooks you to arrive more than one hour from your original arrival time.  If your new arrival is no more than one hour late, then no compensation is due.

If arriving two to four hours late, you are entitled to as much as $650 (the actual amount can be up to 200 percent of a one way fare); over four hours, up to $1,300 or 400 percent of a one way fare.  Bumped passengers are entitled to receive cash.  Do not accept a travel booking voucher, if offered, since these often have future flight restrictions.

·      If you are involuntarily bumped from an international flight originating in the U.S. the same compensation as above is due, except the lower amount applies to flights arriving one to four hours after the scheduled arrive time with the higher amount for flights arriving over four hours later.

·      If your domestic flight is held on a runway for more than three hours before takeoff or landing, you have the right to ask to deplane.  Such requests on international flights can only be made after delays of over four hours.   Loopholes exist in this regulation to allow airlines and/or airports to further delay flights for safety reasons.

·      Under most airlines’ contracts of carriage passengers are allowed to request their money back even for non-refundable tickets when flights are delayed for an extended period of time due to equipment failure. Delta is typical of many airlines that will, at passenger’s request, cancel the remaining ticket and refund the unused portion of the ticket in the event of flight cancellation, diversion, delays of greater than 90 minutes or delays that will cause a passenger to miss connections.

·      There is no government regulation that applies if your flight is canceled.  Prior to airline deregulation your original airline was obligated to rebook you on a competing airline’s next flight out if that flight would get you to your destination sooner.  Most major airlines will provide passengers with a hotel room and pay for meals for a cancelation due to an airline problem.  However, airlines pay nothing for acts of God such as hurricanes and snow storms.

·      When it comes to seat selection passengers have no right to insist that the seats they reserved will be where they are seated.  Airlines reserve the right to assign passengers any seats they choose.

·      When an airline makes routing changes such as changing a reservation that had a direct flight to one that must make connections, passengers can request a refund, but they have no contractual or governmental right to be rebooked on a similar direct flight.  Nevertheless, persistence sometimes leads to an airline finding a passenger another nonstop flight.

·      Schedule changes can result in a passenger having to spend extra nights in a hotel.  Unfortunately passengers have no recourse when this happens.  At best, passengers will be offered a refund and then have to book a last minute alternate flight on another airline, usually at a much higher price.

·      When a passenger sits next to you and is obese necessitating raising the armrest and spills over into a portion of your seat you can request to be reseated or placed on the next flight out.